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Europe: Stocks tumble as geopolitical and trade risks multiply

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[MILAN] A recovery in European shares stalled on Tuesday as a trade dispute between Washington and Beijing weighed on the market and investors seized on China's demand for sanctions from the World Trade Organisation as a reason to take the market lower.

The Stoxx 600 turned down after a positive open, down 0.2 per cent by the close, as trade-sensitive autos and mining stocks buckled under pressure from rising tensions between the US and China.

Autos and miners both fell 1 per cent.

Germany's DAX, heavy in industrials and exporters, fell 0.8 per cent, while strength in the pound on bets of a Brexit deal dragged Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.3 per cent.

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China told the WTO it wanted to impose US$7 billion a year in sanctions on the US in retaliation for Washington's non-compliance with a ruling in a dispute, initiated in 2013, over US dumping duties.

Despite the dispute being unrelated to the most recent trade conflict, trade-sensitive stocks fell further on the news, showing how sensitive the market is to any suggestion that US-China relations are souring further.

The pan-European index was still up 0.9 per cent from the five-month lows hit last week.

US President Donald Trump said last week he was ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports into the United States, threatening duties on another US$267 billion of goods on top of US$200 billion in imports primed for levies in coming days.

Among single stocks, Amer Sports shone after a takeover approach sent the Finnish sports equipment maker soaring up 18.8 percent.

Trading in its shares was halted before Amer said it had received a 4.6 billion euros (S$7.3 billion) takeover approach from China's Anta Sports Products and private equity firm FountainVest.

Video game developer Ubisoft was another strong gainer, up 4.3 per cent after JP Morgan analysts upgraded the stock to "overweight" from "neutral", saying secular growth in the gaming industry and the shift to digital would drive margins up.

"Ubisoft has a strong portfolio of established franchises with recurring revenues," they wrote.

"We see further potential upside from China, mobile market growth and share gains from a low base and a longer-term shift to cloud-based services and subscription bundles."

Solid updates pushed industrial equipment rental firm Ashtead and asset manager Partners Group up 2.6 and 3.8 per cent respectively.

The Swiss asset manager reported strong first-half results, with revenues and earnings up more than expected.

Partners Group fared better than troubled peer GAM, which fell 4 per cent.

Semiconductor stocks fell after Japan's Renesas sealed a deal to buy auto chipmaker IDT for US$6.7 billion, with some analysts saying the deal was symptomatic of a top in the chipmakers industry.

"A quick look at recent history of M&A in the sector (Microchip's disastrous acquisition of Microsemi) and the risk that the semiconductor industry is reaching a cyclical peak is cause for concern," said Neil Campling, co-head of the global thematic group at Mirabaud Securities.

A drop in the US semiconductor stocks index amplified the fall in European chipmakers Siltronic, BE Semiconductor, AMS, ASM International, Infineon - all down between 1.9 and 4.4 per cent.

Steel giant ArcelorMittal fell 2 per cent after it raised its bid for India's debt-laden Essar Steel in competition with Russia's VTB and Vedanta Resources. 

REUTERS

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